celebrity

What Adele’s new body really means for all women in the spotlight.

When it comes to pictures of Adele’s new body, there’s an underlying consensus that one word in particular should never be uttered.

Much like the word ‘Voldemort’ should never be spoken aloud in the Harry Potter universe, so too should the word ‘disappointed’ never be mentioned in correlation with the Grammy winner’s new Instagram post, featuring a celebratory birthday image that directly shows off her much smaller frame.

Yet no matter what the rules say, the truth is they do little to diminish the fact that the celebration around Adele’s weight loss, the ‘glow-up’ headlines, the articles proclaiming her the ‘winner’ of her recent divorce and the gleeful cheers from celebrities like Chrissy Teigen are all aligning with one common idea.

The idea that Adele has now transcended into a more socially acceptable body shape and it’s as much a cause for celebration as it is the reason so many people seem to be breathing sighs of relief of her behalf.

On the other side of the coin, lightyears away from those sharing congratulatory messages, are the women who, upon seeing these headlines, experienced a moment of personal and social whiplash, those who looked at this seemingly innocent photo and felt an unwelcome and somewhat shameful sense of loss, grief and yes, even disappointment.

And, if I’m being brutally honest here, I felt it too.

This sense of disappointment has nothing to do with Adele herself, what she chooses to post on Instagram or what she decides to do with her body. But the reality is that at this moment in time, due to a lack of diversity in the women who are given space on the world stage, so much of our hope and self-acceptance has been tied up in (the very few) women like her.

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It’s a tricky thing to explain to someone who has never walked through the world in a body that is not accepted, as someone who knows their physical appearance has the power to stand in the way of their dreams. So when someone emerges in the public eye, in a body that doesn’t fit the mould we’ve grown used to, in a sea of celebration and success, you find yourself desperately clinging both to them and the idea that maybe the world’s views are beginning to tilt just a little.

As Adele rose to fame it was on account of her immense talent as a singer and songwriter, but it was also noticeable that her body didn’t look the same as so many performers who had come before her. Somehow, this difference never seemed to enter into the equation of her success.

When this happens, legions of women who walk through the world in bodies they have been told are not suitable for success slowly begin to see a sliver of light in the distance, like the door separating the ‘good’ bodies from the ‘bad’ bodies opens just a little and their personal expectations shift.

Seeing women with different body shapes on album covers, in sold-out stadium concerts, on movie screens and walking on catwalks has the power to change the value we see in ourselves from a career, personal and even an economic standpoint.

Listen to a discussion on Adele and why the internet is obsessed with thin women on The Spill. Post continues. 

Even something as small as the fact that some women could look at the clothes Adele used to wear on stage and on red carpets and think to themselves, in some cases for the first time ever, ‘I could fit into that,’ cannot be diminished in importance.

So when you see headlines, fans and commentators all celebrating the fact that the famous body you used to look at and see as a sign of acceptance is gone, and should never have existed in the first place, it’s hard not to feel a sense of loss.

A sense that the comforting idea you held that size was not tied to social acceptance was maybe all just a lie.

Of course, it’s not fair to place the expectation on Adele, or anyone else, that their life and body should be expected to carry the weight of other people’s self-acceptance, body image and hope. That’s more responsibility than any one person should have to bear.

It’s also important to note that whether we like it or not, we don’t have the same extreme reactions to changes in men’s bodies as we do with women’s.

When actors Zach Galifianakis and Jonah Hill were pictured after weightloss the headlines were much more neutral and quickly petered out, and when Kumail Nanjiani’s changed body made headlines in late 2019 the results were all positive, without alluding to the idea that there was anything wrong with his previous form.

If we’ve learned anything from the headlines around Adele this week, it’s that women in the spotlight are not afforded that same luxury.

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In Adele’s case, she is not the only famous woman who has been pictured after weightloss and then hit with a tide of disappointment from fans as a result.

In the past, famous faces such as Rebel Wilson, Gabourey Sidibe, Jennifer Hudson and Melissa McCarthy have also been embroiled in similar conversations, with fans questioning why they felt the need to change their bodies, and what, by extension, that meant about their own.

And while it’s understandable to feel a sense of loss every time one of the few women in the spotlight you felt represented by morphs away from that and is seen in a new way, the examination of the way women change their bodies is not the conversation we should be having.

What Adele’s new body really means for all women in the spotlight is that until we have more body diversity in music, media, movies and pop culture, it will be increasingly difficult to separate a woman’s body from her talent.

The disappointment some women are feeling right now is not due to the fact that Adele changed her body, but because it’s a reminder that no matter how talented and successful you are, displaying a thinner form will always elect the biggest public cheer.

And that’s a much bigger problem than one Instagram post.

If this article brought up any issues for you, you can visit The Butterfly Foundation for support or call the National Helpline on 1800 33 4673. You can also chat online.


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